Fresh out of the Second City Academy, the ensemble cast of All the World’s a Stage of Grief (playing at the Randolph Theatre) is energetic and eager to please. Billed as “Toronto’s hottest up-and-coming comedic performers”, the cast skates through an hour of sketch comedy, sings a few songs, and throws in a little audience participation for good measure.
But is it funny enough for the Toronto Fringe Festival?
Well, yes. Until it isn’t.
There are some exceptionally strong bits in the show: a conversation about the use of rape in cinema was both insightful and hilarious, and the opening sequence is clever, sweet, and surprisingly innovative. An early scene (which, for the sake of preserving the surprise, I’ll only describe as “Mr. Rochester!”) also stands out as tightly-written and beautifully acted.
But just as often, I found that a bit starts off strong and then sort of peters out. A sketch about driving instruction felt about twice as long as it should be; a song about riding the streetcar started off well, but runs about a verse too long; an otherwise-hilarious scene about imaginary friends takes too long to get going; and so on.
There are also one or two bits which I found cringeworthy: the lengthy and more-than-a-little discomforting sequence about Katherine Hepburn springs to mind, while the otherwise-inexplicable “Rich Man’s Frug” dance appears to be an excuse to put a man in a dress.
The good news is that the cast is extremely high-energy and pleased as punch to be here. They’re game for anything, they improvise with aplomb, and they motor through the show in a remarkably disciplined way. Alessandra Vite was the standout for her unique charisma and stage presence, but the entire ensemble make excellent work of the sometimes-inconsistent material.
The show zips along at a frenetic pace, but it suits the material, and the company has no problem keeping up. And despite the problems I’ve teased out, they got a lengthy standing ovation at the end.
Okay, okay, so the writing isn’t great, but the performances are solid. This is your chance to see some genuinely promising talent before they move to New York and get HBO specials and cocaine habits. Don’t let it go to waste.
- All the World’s a Stage of Grief is playing at the Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst Street).
- Performances: July 06 07:00 PM; July 08 03:30 PM; July 09 10:30 PM; July 11 01:45 PM; July 12 09:15 PM; July 14 02:15 PM; July 15 05:15 PM
- Individual Fringe tickets are available at the door for $10 ($5 for FringeKids), cash only. Latecomers will not be seated.
- Tickets are also available online at fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416 966 1062, or in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $9+$2 service charge)
- Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows.